Annenberg's Giving Spans Range of Projects
Walter H. Annenberg's giving to K-12 education began nearly 67 years ago, when, as a graduating senior at the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., he gave the private school a $17,000 track, which is still in use.
Since then, the billionaire former editor and publisher, diplomat, and art collector has given generously to a variety of educational causes and institutions. But until recently, his giving to K-12 education was focused on Peddie.
He has been that school's most generous benefactor, with donations that before last year had already reached $40 million, including a dormitory and two libraries.
Mr. Annenberg's 1993 gift of $100 million to Peddie instantly thrust the college-preparatory school, which had had an endowment of $17 million, into an elite circle of wealthy private schools. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)
Along with the donation to Peddie, Mr. Annenberg last year made gifts of $120 million each to the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California, and $25 million to his late son's alma mater, Harvard University.
The announcements were made on Father's Day, which was significant since one of Mr. Annenberg's favorite mottoes, displayed in his offices, is "Cause My Works on Earth to Reflect Honor on My Father's Memory.''
Served as Ambassador
Observers said that message has particular resonance for Mr. Annenberg, who has long sought to restore honor to a family name sullied when his father, Moses, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced in 1940 to three years in jail and ordered to pay the government $9.5 million.
The younger Mr. Annenberg attained his vast fortune by building on the communications empire started by his father, a Prussian immigrant who came to own the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily Racing Form, and a horse-racing news service.
Walter Annenberg has also gained prominence in numerous other ways. He served as U.S. ambassador to Britain under President Nixon, and has amassed a renowned collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, which has been promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Mr. Annenberg became president of the family firm, Triangle Publications, in 1940. Four years later he started Seventeen magazine, and in 1953 established TV Guide, which by 1991 had a circulation of over 15 million.
Triangle sold off the Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News in 1970, and a collection of radio and television stations a year later.
The remaining Annenberg publications, including Seventeen and TV Guide, were sold in 1988 to the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for $3 billion.
Mr. Annenberg used the proceeds from that deal to establish the Annenberg Foundation, of which he is the chairman and president.
In 1991, officials of the foundation announced that K-12 education would be the focus of its giving. Mr. Annenberg said last summer that he wanted to spend the foundation's holdings, which stood last fall at $1.6 billion, so that he could have direct control over where the money went.